Anyone who has driven past the College site recently would have noticed just how rapidly the buildings and environment are growing and changing. It seems that every day brings new visual developments.
As the two photos above show, it wasn’t that long ago that the site was an undeveloped patch of land on the outskirts of Rolleston, now it is an impressive and modern building soon to be populated by eager young minds and equally eager teachers.
As I have said before though, the buildings are really only a venue for what takes place within them. I include the ‘before and after’ shots above to highlight that the external development of the school is mirrored by the rapidly developing plans for what is going to take place within them. Just as the buildings grow so does the planning of the leadership team. In fact both are running in parallel and both have developed significantly over recent months.
The main emphasis of late has been planning the ‘bridge.’ We have a fully developed and coherent vision and a very clear idea of what the timetable will look like. In other words we have a clear vision and a clear picture of what learning will look like and feel like once we open.
What is needed now is detailing how exactly we ensure that the vision transitions to the practice. This involves ‘fleshing’ out the processes, principles, policies and practices that will provide structure for the the operation of Rolleston College. This will the main thrust of our work this term.
Back in January when we started the school year we discussed this planning stage and cane up with some very basic sketched diagrams to capture the main ideas that we believed were important in ensuring that the vision becomes practice. The time was not right to progress them so they were ‘parked’ It was fascinating to bring these diagrams out again recently and realise that their ‘time had come.’ We now need provide the detail behind these diagrams but it was good to see that the thinking that drove the initial discussions was still valid.
The diagrams below capture the initial diagrams and the reworked and revised second version that have recently been completed and will drive much of our planing as we move towards welcoming the full staff next term and ultimately our foundation learners.
Just like the physical build of the College these diagrams show a movement from a basic and ‘raw’ position to one that has definite shape and substance.
The Learning Principles.
The intention of the learning principles is to set up the organisational and pedagogical structures and thinking within the school that will ensure that we keep to our vision of providing a learner centred educational experience where every learner can stand and succeed as the individual they are.
The diagram [both the the rough draft and the new version] need to be read as a zooming out and zooming in process.
At the centre is the learner. Surrounding them are the principles for learning that we have to provide for and be aware of in our planning and approaches to learning. We need to be aware that meaningful learning needs to be challenging and that learners need to be ‘stretched.’ In the same way we need to ensure that learning is personal and personalised. Part of meaningful learning depends on the concept of care [manaakitanga] and this care is not only of the learner but for the learner as well as the learner caring for those around them. Learning is connected both via technology and interpersonal. In the same way learning does have a social, collaborative aspect and an associated sense of social responsibility. In providing all of these we also have to be aware that assessment is not the sole or primary driver for learning and that we need to assess learning and not learn just for the assessment.
These concepts are based on [amongst other research] the OECD ‘Nature of Learning’ practitioner guide and provide for a holistic and broad approach to the learning undertaken by an individual.
If these aspects are provided for then the learner will be able to move to the outer circle where they can develop the relevant and appropriate dispositions such as resilience and curiosity that will empower them as life long learners. They will understand and have a degree of ownership over the process of learning and be aware of how and why they learn not just a narrowing of their focus to what they learn. The individual will be able to articulate and participate in conversations about their learning and their progress as well as being aware of how to discuss their next steps. Finally their capabilities and capacity as a learner will be enhanced especially in developing transferable skills that can be employed in a variety of contexts.
This then is the zooming out part of this diagram, the zooming in requires an understanding and appreciation that the learner brings with them extensive prior knowledge and experiences that influences their dispositions, capabilities, conversations and levels of engagement with the learning process. This is turn influences how they are able to access and develop the aspects outlined in the inner circle, such as their ability to accept the next challenge, their ability to connect with a variety of groups in a variety of situations etc.
This diagram therefore will be the umbrella for us this term as we strive to develop processes and practices that will ensure that the learner remains at the centre but also allows the individual to be acknowledged and respected as an individual arriving with their own manifestation of these principles.
The Learning Process.
The next diagram sits behind the principles and outlines the process or steps required to gain understanding or mastery of the material being investigated.
It leans heavily on UDL principles. The concept of UDL and project based learning is explained in an excellent and very readable book,
‘Launch” by John Spencer and A.J Julian.
It is the learning process that drives planning and learning for both learners and teachers at Rolleston College.
It is based on some core beliefs. The first being that it is almost impossible to go from ‘peak to peak’ when learning. Inevitably to reach the next and higher peak [or understanding] you have to go into the valley for a while. You need to go into a zone of inexperience in order to grow. This is the challenge concept mentioned above. What allows a learner to climb out of that valley to a new peak is the process and actions undertaken.
Learning must start with questions. Without this learning becomes disconnected, irrelevant and episodic. Through a process of ‘asking’ a learner will be able to move from questioning to directed searching. To go from this peak to understanding a process of classifying and sifting information is required. This is the process, the actions that need to be utilized in order to empower. In the same way to move from understanding to creation a process that allows for experimentation, trial and error needs to be experienced.
This is a general process and of course it does differ for individual learners but the general direction will be similar for most of us. The peaks are the goals and the processes are the steps to employ and work on in order to climb towards the next peak.
At the end there will be times where mastery is gained but inevitably if the process is truly effective it is more important that it leads to more questions and further areas of study and inquiry as this is where the concept of life long learning becomes a reality. Learning does not end.
This process allows for learning to be less of a straight line and more of a general trend that accepts there will be some troughs as an individual learner moves from peak to peak. In our planning and execution we need to be mindful of his ‘up and down’ journey and incorporate it into our planing and delivery.